AssembleMe is an information science blog written by Julius Schorzman that frequently sways off-topic.

Julius is the CEO of the Google Ventures backed company DailyCred. DailyCred makes working with OAuth super duper simple.

To view some of my old projects, visit Shopobot or CodeCodex.

You can follow me on Twitter if you really want to @schorzman.

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    The State of Wireless London

    INFO VISUALIZATION:Julian Priest has an interesting piece up about, well, "The State of Wireless London."

    Shown here is a visualization of shown nodes for commercial wifi services in Greater London, however the piece talks about home and office wireless access points also. In a fairly crude manner, he estimates the total number of WAPs inside the M25 highway circling London to be about 20,000:

    Total Distance flown 348.4 km

    Total nodes seen 1525

    Radius of view ~0.5 km

    Flight height ~0.4 km

    Ground area covered ~0.3 km -2

    Total area covered ~98 km -2

    Node density ~15.5 nkm -2

    Estimate of nodes within the M25 ~19451


    iBooks Everywhere

    INFO TECHNOLOGY: I was studying well into the night yesterday at the Bauhaus Cafe. While trying my best to concentrate on data structures I couldn't help but notice that 4 out of 5 of the laptops in my general vicinity were iBooks. The fifth notebook was a Sony (the same model I used to have before it died and I stripped it for parts and subsequently swore off buying anything Sony ever again). I was also listening to my iPod of course; it was virtually a commercial for Apple.

    So I see iBooks everywhere I go, but Apple is less then 5% of the market share. What gives? Who knows for sure, but my hope is that Apple is gaining some ground amongst the young and the tech savvy - an influential group. Perhaps as more of this core group migrates to Mac (or like myself, expands to all three major OSes) more of the people that rely on these folks for tech support (hi mom) will make the crossover too.

    On a related note, Caffeinated and Unstrug is a great resource for finding Free WiFi in Seattle. The list is getting quite long!


    Bonnie Nardi on Blogging

    INFO THEORY: I just received an email about an upcoming talk by Bonnie Nardi. I wasn't familiar with her previously, but a quick look at her webpage piqued my interest.

    I am an anthropologist specializing in the study of technology. My theoretical orientation is activity theory, a philosophical framework developed by the Russian psychologists Vygotsky, Luria, Leontiev, and their students. My interests are user interface design, collaborative work, computer-mediated communication, e-democracy, and theoretical approaches to technology design and evaluation.

    Here are the details on the lecture:

    6/11/2004 Lecture: Bonnie Nardi (School of Information & Computer Science, University of California, Irvine), "Blogging for the Rest of Us"

    Location: 12:30 pm, Communications 321

    Digital Media Working Group Lecture Series

    Nardi will discuss why people blog, why she believes blogging is like having a private radio station, and how democracy will be impacted by blogs and related Internet tools. The research was conducted in two milieux: blogging in and around Stanford University, and Burlington, Vermont where one of her students studied the use of blogs and other Internet tools in the Howard Dean campaign. For more information, call 206-543-3920.



    INFO VISUALIZATION:I won't be posting too much for the next few days as I have some big deadlines coming up on some projects.

    However, I do want to take a second to give props to the programmers of Prefuse.

    This great Java package has some awesome tools for data visualization. I’m going to be using this package to display a large dataset for a personal project, and I was fascinated how easy it is to use. You certainly don't have to be a prolific Java programmer to dig in and do some cool things. I only wish there was more documentation!


    SETI @ Home

    INFO VISUALIZATION:This summer I'll have some extra time on my hands, so I'm going to try and do a bi-weekly project where I create or recreate an information visualization or interface.

    Today I recreated the Seti@Home interface. Why SETI@Home has been around for so long and been so popular, yet changed so little? I don't know, but if someone asked me to redesign the Seti@Home GUI -- and no one has -- I might create something like this:

    (click for actual size version)

    For reference, here's the current version:

    (click for actual size version)

    As you can see, I would leave the basic layout intact; it works so no reason to mess with it. However, the pitch black background would be the first to go. I don't know about you, but when I look at the real Seti@Home interface, the first thing I notice is that giant, ugly, light-blue "grid." So that was the second thing to go. Last but not least, I cleaned up the interface to make it more pleasing to look at and also easier to explore. If only they supported skins.


    My iPod, My Love

    INFO TECHNOLOGY:If you have an iPod and a Windows box, you need the iPod Agent.

    It is perfect for getting your iPod to perform a number of PDA-type functions, plus additional functions Apple made a little bit harder then easy to appease the RIAA. The best thing is the RSS reader though. I use these feeds to pull entire sections of the New York Times onto my iPod for those boring times spent on mass transit. I feel sorry for the suckers that still try to read a paper on a crowded city bus. Now if only I could get The Stranger on rss.

    Don't forget to check out iPodSoft's other handy programs too. (I think I'd like them more if they changed their name to iSoftPod.)


    Is Customization a Design Copout?

    INTERFACES: I was thinking about customization in lecture yesterday.

    First let me say that I am usually a big fan being able to customize my operating system and application interfaces to suit my tastes. I usually know the way I like things and I get pissed if I can't change it accordingly.

    But then I thought about iTunes. I've never had to customize the GUI. I've never wanted to. All I had to do was tweak a few tiny things like turning off the iTunes music store tab. But all in all, even if I could tweak the interface, I wouldn't. It's really that good.

    On the other hand, there is Windows. The too Blue XP scheme, the magically disappearing menu items (why simplify menus when you can just temporarily mask complexity?!?), Rover the retriever, Clippy the crap head... If I couldn't remove these things I might just kill someone.

    This left me asking: do I really want to customize software? Or do I just want to customize software that hasn't been well designed in the first place? I really don't know the answer, but I'm guessing that most people really don't want to customize their interfaces beyond setting the desktop image and incorporating their favorite colors. Instead, they just want it done right, out of the box.

    iTunes does it right. Media Player, for a touch of contrast, should be customizable to the point of complete recreation.


    DRM Doomed

    INFO THEORY: The Register has an interesting interview with Jim Griffin, the former director of Geffen's technology group.

    The Register: You're so certain that DRM will not succeed, but the temptations for the industry are so great - one-time party CDs - that surely it's too tempting for them not to try?

    Jim Griffin: Theoretically what you're saying makes some seductive logic. But it's obvious that not only should it not happen, it's not going to happen.

    The flow of information once digitized, this anarchy of art and knowledge and creativity, can't be controlled. We've designed our societies around the anarchy. For example, we've been emphatic about the notion that we can't control speech. We may send out the secret police and have all manner of efforts of control; but basically we don't believe in it.

    So we're left with two paths here. Will we try and end the anarchy of art, or will we try and monetize it? Art and knowledge and creativity are fascinating to us because they make our lives better when they're not controlled. And we've monetized it successfully throughout history.

    My favorite quote from the interview:

    We have to start with the a priori notion that we must democratize access to art and knowledge. That's a baseline notion of a civilized society. We have libraries that will get you any movie, and any song, and any book; and price or money should not stop you hearing those songs. Museums go even further, with the idea that great art should be able to travel, to come to you, and feel free.

    The RIAA vs. civilized society. What a fascinating way of framing the 'piracy' debate!


    Newsflash: Sony: Sucks, Out of US PDA Market

    INFO TECHNOLOGY: Lots of news in the last two days about Sony leaving the PDA market. Could it be because their handhelds suck? Probably. I remeber back when Sony was the cream of the crop; back before they decided that complicated was the rough equivalent of good and their business of selling American Poptrash was more important then kick-ass electronics.

    Anyway, Sony bashing aside. This is good news. I'm still waiting for Apple (they're the new Sony, didjahear?) to come out with a PDA. Actually, no I'm not, because my iPod mini does most the things I would want a PDA to do anyway.

    Related Stories:


    New York Times


    Modeling Porous Material

    INFO VISUALIZATION: I don't know enough about biology to say what this model does exactly, but I found this visualization of a busy neuron to be very interesting.

    Here is some info from the NSF:

    The model is a new approach to look at percolation—the flow of a liquid or small particle through a porous material. In the simulation, materials pass through fields of complex, three-dimensional shapes, a scenario that is closer to real-world environments than existing two-dimensional models and models incorporating simpler shapes.


    In addition to biological applications, the simulation will help researchers develop new materials by revealing better ways to craft porous substances. By understanding the properties of these types of materials, researchers can enhance conductivity in batteries, flow paths in filters and numerous other percolation mechanisms.